Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Capcom
The Marvel vs. series of fighting games has always been a favorite among fighting game fans for the past 20 years. Marvel vs. Capcom 2, in particular, was a staple of my own childhood as a wee lad just getting into video games and arguably one of the most significant titles in the development of my gaming tastes. When the series finally returned with Marvel vs. Capcom 3 more than 10 years after the second game, I was incredibly hyped for the experience and found myself overjoyed and satisfied with the experience. It’s been about 6 years since the third entry of the series (as well as the Ultimate edition), and quite a lot of high-profile fighting games have come out in the interim. Now seems as good a time as any for the crossover fighter to come back, and so here we are with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.
MvC: Infinite is the first game in the series to include a single player story mode, which is key to some of the additions and changes to the formula this time around. The story, much like the current trajectory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, follows the pursuit of the Infinity Stones in a bid for ultimate control of the multiverse. Thanos and Ultron are tricked by Death (secretly convinced by Jedah from Darkstalkers) into obtaining the stones, which ultimately leads to an unexpected alliance between Ultron and Sigma, fusing into a single being that threatens the entirety of both the Marvel and Capcom universes. Facing the threat of universal dominance and mutation, the heroes of both companies’ series must team up and fight off the plague of both Ultron Sigma and the Sigma Virus.
As an actual single-player mode, the story itself is average. It’s about what you would expect from this kind of multiverse comic book-style crossover narrative. There’s plenty of outlandish scenarios and fighting pair-ups, and the narrative makes decent usage of all the cast members at play. If there’s a big issue to be had, it’s with the pacing and flow. At least half of the fights in the story are against Ultron Sigma’s grunt enemies, which gets old fairly quick, and some of the story fights against the main playable characters sometimes feel forced and arbitrary. In particular, there’s a point in an Umbrella (or A.I.Mbrella) lab where you’re forced into a random fight with Haggar for no real reason other than seemingly to pad the length of the campaign. There’s also a point where a giant Symbiote attacks the city and ends up leading to a fight against an infected Spider-Man which, while it makes sense as a nod to the series continuity, just feels like more padding. The story just doesn’t provide the same level of narrative engagement or efficiency as its DC counterpart with Injustice. Outside of this, the game also features other requisite game modes such as single-player arcade mode, training, mission modes, and online multiplayer. The online functionality is decent, if occasionally laggy at times, but that could just be my own internet issues. It can often take a while to find a match-up even under the most nonrestrictive of settings, so that’s something to keep an eye out on.
The introduction of the Infinity Stones brings with it a handful of substantial changes to the gameplay formula, this time around. Most notably, Infinite adopts a 2-vs.-2 tag team fighting structure, going back to earlier entries in the series and abandoning the 3-team battles from the past couple of games. As always, the player can freely switch between the two characters at will, but the game noticeably removes the character-specific assists that used to be a staple of the series. As for the Infinity Stones, each of the 6 stones grants the player distinct buffs and bonuses, from power boosts to movement enhancement. It’s not a bad mechanic, and it can often save the player in a pinch when used well, especially the Soul Stone, which allows the player to resurrect one of their fallen teammates if needed, as well as having both characters in play at once.
Control-wise, the game switches away from the previous entry’s use of a light-medium-heavy attack system to MvC 2’s control layout of having light and heavy punches and kicks mapped across 4 buttons. The control system also streamlines some of the hyper combo moves to rely on relatively more comprehensible button combinations. Overall, these gameplay changes are serviceable and make it easier for new players to jump in and get a feel for the overall vibe of the game. There are admittedly some questionable design choices, such as the further inclusion of the broken-as-hell blocking mechanics, but that’s something I’ve learned to live with. It’s, for lack of a better term…
While the gameplay is standard and gets the job done, when looking at the various other aspects of the game, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite shows some strangely underwhelming spots. Starting off with the character roster, the game features 30 playable characters in the base game. While this is only a small step down from 36 in the original iteration of MvC 3, the smaller roster becomes a bit underwhelming on the realization that the base game only has 5 new additions, compared to the 20 or so newcomers that graced the last entry.
The Marvel side of things have been culled and selected to bring it in line with the MCU. While I understand that as a marketing/design choice (Marvel’s been subjected to a lot of infighting amongst its various media arms, as far as licensing rights), some of the choices made are head-scratching at times. While I will admit that Gamora is easily the most fun of the new playable combatants, having Nova and Captain Marvel in the same game is rather redundant since they control in a similar manner. MODOK is reduced to a background character despite being playable before, and it fails to include long-neglected characters like Daredevil or the rest of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. The game also misses the opportunity to include some newer characters from the comics like Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel). The Capcom side of things also sees many familiar faces, with only two new additions in the base game with Mega Man X and Jedah (wow, another Darkstalkers character). Once again, Capcom misses the opportunity to represent neglected franchises like Power Stone, Onimusha, or others.
The roster issue is exacerbated further by switching back to a 2-on-2 system, as this significantly pairs down the total variety of options available to the player to experience. The base game allows for about 435 total combinations, which is a marked step down from the 7,140 allowed in the original MvC 3 and the nearly 17,300 combinations allowed in Ultimate MvC 3. While 435 may seem large to the average player, after spending a substantial amount of time with the game, it feels like you will have seen every possibility in a short period of time. The 6 Infinity stones, while an okay addition, don’t really do much to vary up the fights as much as having a third character would. …Unrelated, but I apologize for inflicting you with math here.
The visual presentation of the game is also a big sore spot. While there may be an argument that gameplay takes priority above all else, I do think there’s a valid counterargument to be made about the importance of graphics/art style in this specific genre. The fighting game genre relies heavily on visuals for aesthetic variation amongst titles, as well as creating the satisfying sense of impact in the midst of battle. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite might have a decent-enough level of polish with very glossy shiny character models/locations and a nicely saturated color palette, many of the character models are very off-looking, like up-scaled PS2-era models. Much of the comic-book stylization is gone from both the character designs as well as all attacks, leading to even the most intense of fights feeling weirdly inert and unimpactful. This goes doubly so for many of the animations, especially with the various ultimate attacks. While characters like Nemesis and Dormammu have hyper combos that are animated to feel massive and hard-hitting, others like Frank West and Ghost Rider’s hyper combos are almost comical in their animations, reducing the feeling of satisfaction when successfully pulled off. It all leads to fights that come across as lacking any real energy or inspiration to their design.
These might seem like small things, but after a good while spent playing, they all add up into a noticeable detraction from the beautiful chaos that the series is known for. The standard story, serviceable combat, off-kilter inconsistent graphical presentation, and standard character roster all adds up to an experience that is, as said before, ultimately just functional. The game is competent enough on a basic design level to not be a complete dismissal, but much of the game still feels weirdly empty. For a game with “Infinite” in the title, the actual game feels weirdly limited in many respects, almost like it only really exists to fill out a balance sheet instead of wanting to do something truly spectacular with the franchise. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is average, but given the high standards set by prior titles, “average” just isn’t really good enough to make the experience worth a great deal of time or a full price purchase. It’s more worth it to just stick with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Final verdict: If you absolutely need to play Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, wait for a sale where it’s 20 bucks or something. Otherwise, Infinite can just be passed up without missing much.